6 Reasons NOT to Attend Planet Philanthropy

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Planet Philanthropy is coming to Tampa June 25-27 – hooray! The Florida fundraising conference moves around the state each year and for the first time in many years, we are hosting it right here in downtown Tampa. I think this is fabulous but I realize not everyone agrees with me. So for those who aren’t sure, here are 6 reasons not to attend (and why I think they are wrong).

1.  It’s too close to home so it won’t be fun
Sometimes the fun of attending a conference is getting to know a new city, I get that. But when is the last time you explored your own city? Our colleagues at the downtown jewels like Florida Aquarium, Tampa Theatre, and the Tampa Bay History Center, support amazing missions that make Tampa a fun location for any event. I encourage you to stay at the Hilton Downtown Tampa and have the full conference experience. I’m going to.

2. My organization doesn’t pay for it
I understand that challenge because I have been there. More than once in my career my employer didn’t support continuing education but I came to the realization that I had to make the investment in my own career. Fortunately, Planet Philanthropy is affordable and you can minimize travel expenses. If you decide not to stay at the hotel, valet parking is available at a very reasonable price.

3. I’m not a CFRE/I’m already a CFRE
You might think that CFRE hours don’t matter to you because you aren’t pursuing that certification but I would encourage you to consider that you might pursue it in the future so keep track of your continuing education hours now. If you already have the CFRE designation, Planet Philanthropy will give you a healthy number of continuing ed points for your next recertification (and it’s coming faster than you realize…it’s always coming faster than you realize).

4.  The networking won’t be good because everyone will be from Tampa
This is a statewide event and while the Tampa Bay area will be well represented, the presenters, exhibitors, sponsors and guests will be from across the state and across the country.

5.  I’ve been in fundraising a long time and I’ve seen/heard it all
With that in mind, the conference planning committee has been diligently researching best practices and securing presenters to cover the latest and greatest.  Click here to see the full list of offerings.  If you’ve been in fundraising a long time, it may be time for you to take a mentoring role to our younger colleagues.

6.  I’m between positions so the timing’s not good
I’ve witnessed more than one spontaneous recruitment at Planet Philanthropy through the years. A nonprofit CEO once told me they would never send another development director to Planet Philanthropy because the last two had used it to get a new job. (Note: I think the problem there is with the CEO but that’s a topic for another blog, another day)

You may have other objections to overcome in order to attend. I encourage you to overcome those challenges and get yourself registered today. Hope to see you there (or here)!

One more thing to share: I am honored to be presenting “Best Practices for Fundraising from a Modern Family,” where I’ll talk about the differences in how generations give. 

Comfortably Accountable

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I recently worked with Steve King, Executive Director, and Dennis Pitocco, Board Chair of Meals on Wheels of Tampa to present an educational session on increasing board members’ participation in their fundraising efforts. Like many boards, this board sees the opportunity for improvement in this area. One of the challenges expressed by many: how do we hold board members accountable when they are just volunteers, not staff members. The next question is often, who should hold them accountable?

In our preparation for the educational session, Dennis said that as board chair  his goal was to hold board members “comfortably accountable.” I love that phrase! We want to hold board members accountable but in a way that is comfortable for the board member, the board leadership and the staff.

Here is the goal: comfortably accountable. Here is the What, Who and How of “comfortably accountable.”

What?
Comfortably accountable is an approach that allows board members to hold each other accountable, not with an atmosphere of intimidation and guilt but with an atmosphere of encouragement and celebration.

Who?
The best person to hold a board member accountable is another board member. Board member to board member is a peer to peer relationship. Both are volunteers.

How?
How do we achieve comfortably accountable? I recommend these 5 things:

  1. Clear expectations – start with clear board expectations during recruitment and revisit them at least once a year.
  2. Focus on the mission – make sure each board member sees how their involvement and investment helps the nonprofit reach their mission.
  3. Thorough follow-up – insure that board members are communicating on their progress.
  4. Collegial atmosphere – find opportunities for your board to get to know each other and build trust as a group. Often a board retreat or social gathering is the way to encourage that collegial atmosphere.
  5. Celebration of successes – make sure that board members appreciate each other and celebrate the successes of the board and the entire organization.

No one wants to serve on a board that is ruled by guilt and fear. Conversely, no one wants to serve on a board that doesn’t really need them. The way to make sure you don’t face either of these extremes is to seek an atmosphere of “comfortably accountable.”

Effective Out of Office Messages

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’re delighted to have this guest post from our friend and colleague Ashley Pero.

Are you getting ready for some time out of the office?  It is important not to forget to set your out of office email and voicemail messages. You can easily set a task reminder for the day of your departure to pop up in Outlook. And, if you do forget it is worth a trip back to the office (or a quick remote in) to get it set. An effective out of office message can save you time when you get back to the office and also lets people know why they haven’t heard back from you. These people can be coworkers, donors, clients, volunteers or that all important potential donor – you don’t want to leave them thinking you are unresponsive or don’t care.

You can craft an effective out of office message by answering a few simple questions:

  • When will you be out of the office and what day will you return?
  • Will the office be closed during any of the time your away?
  • How can you be contacted (if at all)?
  • Who can they contact while you’re away?

An email out of office example:
Hi! I will be out of the office with no access to email until (day of the week), (month and day). I will respond to all emails upon my return. 

If you require immediate assistance please call our office, (888) 888-8888, and someone will be happy to assist you. 

The office will be closed (dates office will be closed). 

Thank you. 

Your voicemail out of office can be similar, but try and keep it short with just the important information.

  • You could also have limited access to email/voicemail or available only by cell phone – if that is the case let them know how long they should expect a response to take.
  • If there is a particular person they should ask for in your office list that person’s name, email and phone number. If there are certain people for certain issues list them all (being mindful while recording your voicemail out of office).

And one last thing, if you are using Outlook make sure to set both the internal and external message (both tabs). The same message can work, but you customize both depending on your office size and office requirements.

Originally published on the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay blog.

Don’t Confuse Overhead with Fraud

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Yesterday’s morning paper greeted me with a big headline about charity fraud. The Federal Trade Commission has filed a complaint against three national charities. I am pleased that action is being taken against charities who claim to make a difference in people’s lives but don’t. However, I fear that a national conversation will lead to confusion between overhead expenses and fraud.

If you missed the story here it is: Tampa Bay Times 
It was also on TV: CNN 

What are fraud and overhead? I like to start in the dictionary. Here’s how Dictionary.com defines them:
fraud – deceit, trickery, sharp practice, or breach of confidence, perpetrated for profit or to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage
overhead – the general, fixed cost of running a business, as rent, lighting, and heating expenses, which cannot be charged or attributed to a specific product or part of the work operation.

The charities in question claim that their high expenses are overhead. Charities need overhead, “fixed cost of running a business,” to operate. Staff must be paid. Buildings must be repaired. Fundraising activities must be conducted. I would urge everyone – nonprofit employees and board members, individual and institutional donors, regulators – to not confuse legitimate overhead expenses with the fraudulent practices at corrupt nonprofits.

As a career fundraiser, I am very aware that fundraising expenses are often maligned in these conversations. Many people say they want all of their donations to go directly to program support. That is not realistic. What if everyone said that? Nonprofits would not be able to operate without someone supporting the overhead expenses, including ethical fundraising activities.

In a written response to the action of the Federal Trade Commission against the three national charities, Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) President and CEO Andrew Watt stated, “These kinds of fraudulent organizations are not charities in any sense of the word, nor do they in any way represent the vast majority of charities that work tirelessly on a wide variety of causes.” I am a member of AFP and proudly adhere to the Code of Ethical Principles and Standards.

When making decisions about where to make a charitable gift, do your due diligence. Make sure that the organization is providing the program support it claims. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that any amount spent on overhead is bad. Those overhead expenses keep your favorite nonprofit operating and thriving. If you have questions about an organization, do some research before you give. There are resources online to help. The best way to learn more about a charity is to get involved – volunteer, take a tour, ask how you can best help.

Don’t let yesterday’s news deter the work of your nonprofit or your charitable giving. Never confuse fraud with overhead.

If you are interested in learning more about the Overhead Myth, check out these resources:
The Overhead Myth 
“The Way We Think About Charity Is Dead Wrong” a TED Talk by Dan Pallotta

Don’t Bury the Lead

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I watched as several nonprofits were interviewed on TV recently. As I often do, I passionately expressed my frustration. This is also known as yelling at a TV that can’t hear me (at least that’s what my husband calls it). Why, you ask? I’ll explain.

A reporter started with the question, “what does your organization do?” There it is: the million dollar question, the one we’ve all been dying to answer on television. I experienced great disappointment as the nonprofit’s spokesperson told us how long they’ve been in existence, how many people they work with and that they are a 501(c)3. Finally, she got to the answer: they create jobs. She should have started with that! That’s what they do. That’s how they change the world.

How do you answer that question? You probably don’t have many opportunities to answer it on live TV but how do you answer it on any given day?

Here’s advice the advice I was shouting at my TV: don’t bury the lead! What is your lead? What is it that you really do to change the world? Do you save lives, rescue animals, teach kids to read? Start with that. Figure out how to say it in the most succinct and dramatic way.

Remember that most people aren’t inspired by how long you’ve been around, how many people you serve or the fact that the IRS granted you tax exempt status. What inspires them? How you are changing the world. Be sure that is the first thing you say. I strongly believe the best way to convey how you change the world is by a quick story that illustrates that in a real life.

“Bury the lead” is an expression from journalism. It applies in many situations: copywriting, social media. If you’d like to read more about that, check out this blog post from Socialmediatoday.com, “Keys to Copywriting: Don’t Bury the Lead.”

If you’re not sure if you are able to tell your story this way, practice on the next person who asks about what’s going on in your life. Tell them about the good work of your organization and see how they respond. Then ask them what they think. You’ll be amazed at what you learn.

Originally posted on the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay blog.